Coronavirus live updates: China optimistic on controlling outbreak as Hong Kong reports second death

BEIJING — Chinese cities are slowly coming back to life as the government gains confidence in its ability to control the epidemic.

Shanghai and a dozen other Chinese cities have allowed office buildings, shopping malls, and restaurants to reopen this week, but with extra measures taken to reduce the risks of virus spread, local media reported Wednesday.

While a number of businesses have encouraged employees to work from home, more and more white-collar workers are tiptoeing back to downtown Shanghai’s dense skyscrapers — albeit with some safety measures. The 88-story Jinmao Tower, which houses branch offices of big state banks, IT companies, and an upscale Hyatt hotel, have required tenants on different floors to clock in at different hours of the day to reduce mass gathering. Other buildings have limited the number of passengers for elevators, for instance, the Hongqiao R&F Center allows no more than four people in one ride at the same time, while the HKRI Taikoo Hui commercial complex put the upper limit to six.

The city government said Tuesday that a third of storefronts have also reopened. Smaller restaurants in Shanghai remain closed, and the few that are open have either opted for takeaway only or kept eating-in customers as far apart as possible. The food court in Shanghai Center has kept only a third of their tables and allowed only one customer per table; in addition, tables are placed at least one meter away from each other. Fast food chains and coffee shops including KFC and Starbucks are introducing a “no-touch” service, which asks customers to place orders on smartphone apps or a self-service machine and then get their food or drinks at a pickup table away from the cashier.

Some 200 miles away in Nanjing, the provincial capital of Jiangsu, major shopping malls and department stores — The Central, Golden Eagle, CenBest, and the House of Fraser — reopened Wednesday morning with temperature checks at entrances, while most offices, cinemas and other indoor venues remain closed. Clinics and outpatient departments at public hospitals also resumed service, but dental clinics and the departments of stomatology, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, and plastic surgery are closed until further notice.

Intercity bus services and subway systems in Suzhou and several other cities in Jiangsu province have returned to normal operation this week. On Tuesday alone, over 110,000 passengers took the subway in Suzhou, and all of them had to register their personal information before security check. Parks, gardens, and outdoor sports facilities are now open to public, but with security in place to control human flow.

Hangzhou, the home city of e-commerce giant Alibaba, announced Tuesday that road blocks and temporary checkpoints inside the city would be dismantled. On Wednesday morning, social media was abuzz with excitement because traffic jams were reported in some parts of the town, signaling an increasing number of cars back on the road. The city’s West Lake scenic area has reopened starting Wednesday, cutting the daily quota of visitors by half and requiring all to wear masks inside.

Three malls owned by Yintai Group have reopened, requiring temperature check, real-name registration, and closing two hours earlier than normal. By Thursday, all businesses in the services sector will be allowed to reopen.

Malls and wholesale markets in other cities — from Kunming in the west to Yiwu in the east, from Changchun in the north to Sanya in the south — have also reportedly reopened this week. Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, and the wider Hubei province remain under strict quarantine.

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